While watching young French voters being interviewed on early morning German television, it is striking how reserved they are in their enthusiasm. The euphoria on the Place de la Bastille the previous night has been replaced by the stark realisation that governing is far more daunting than campaigning.
The newly elected government of Françoise Hollande inherits an economy that some experts fear is tottering on the edge of disaster. Some suggest Europe's second largest economy could become the next economic problem child. The fear of further financial disaster is exactly what Nicolas Sarkozy tried to play upon in his re-election bid. The steady hand that had helped steer the European economy through one of the most dangerous crises in recent memory was supposed to help the conservative Sarkozy to another five-year term.
Instead, the French voters rejected what was seen as a government dominated by wealthy interests. The popular opinion was not that Sarkozy managed the crisis, but that he was dominated by his counterpart the German chancellor Angela Merkel. In a way, the French president was punished for working too well with her.
Hollande ran on a platform opposing austerity and pleading for French unity
Hollande's message that he would fight more for the French people in Europe struck a nerve with a public that was much more sceptical than one might expect from a country that has benefitted so much from being part of Europe. Yet ultimately it was this argument that brought the French voters out to the second round of voting. As desperately as Sarkozy attempted tried to lure the voters from Marine Le Pen's Front National party by ratcheting up rhetoric eerily similar to hers, it did not appear to gain much traction with an electorate more interested in the economy than the values that he thought would connect with the traditional-minded French.
The question now is what a Socialist government in France means for the future of Europe. Berlin has already sent the unmistakeable message that the economic plans put in place by Hollande's predecessor are non-negotiable. Whether the new French President has the ability or the fortitude to change course is yet to be seen.
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